Almost 50 years soon after the United States declared a “war on drugs” there is ample proof these days that a criminal justice and punitive response to drug use has failed. Meanwhile, nations like Portugal and Switzerland have embraced public health approaches to decreasing the harms connected with drug use for decades, with established accomplishment. Switzerland was the first country to open an overdose prevention web site more than 30 years ago, saving numerous lives and devoid of recording a single fatal overdose. Certainly, because the 1990s, the quantity of opioid-connected deaths has fallen by more than 60%. Portugal decriminalized the individual use of all drugs in 2001, and because then, overdose deaths have decreased by additional than 80%. As a group of U.S. prosecutors learned during a recent trip to Portugal, decriminalization worked in significant component since it helped cut down the stigma of drug use and replaced a justice method response with a public well being beginning point.
It is time for all nations to comply with this lead and embrace a new international vision for drug policy primarily based on principles of harm reduction and respect of basic human rights, like the proper to well being care. Harm reduction is a public well being philosophy that posits governments can additional proficiently and humanely address substance use by aiming efforts at decreasing the damaging consequences of drug use. These techniques contain needle exchanges and overdose prevention websites, exactly where people today can use drugs beneath the supervision of folks educated to reverse overdoses.
Some elected prosecutors are currently major this charge and implementing reforms that recognize the ineffectiveness of criminalizing drug use and the will need for a paradigm shift. Seattle District Lawyer Dan Satterberg has stopped charging practically all individual possession cases of compact amounts of drugs San Francisco District Lawyer George Gascon is wiping out more than 9.000 previous marijuana convictions Baltimore State’s Lawyer Marilyn Mosby recently decriminalized marijuana possession and is similarly functioning to expunge previous marijuana convictions and Chittenden County, Vermont State’s Lawyer Sarah George has stopped prosecuting possession of the opioid therapy buprenorphine and has referred to as for the opening of a supervised consumption web site.
Prior to additional lives are lost to jails or overdose deaths, leaders must comply with the instance of these pioneers and other nations about the planet. Criminalizing and incarcerating people today for drug-connected offenses not only hasn’t worked but has led to more harms to communities: an explosion in incarceration that fractured households and disparately impacted communities of colour, the spread of infectious illnesses and thousands of drug-connected overdoses. We know now that most people today who use drugs do not create a substance use disorder, but for these who do, therapy is far additional productive than jail. Harsh approaches don’t reduce drug provide or use. They merely drive people today who use drugs into the margins of society. Additional, overly punitive techniques that concentrate on prohibition are enormously expensive and take essential sources away from efforts that cut down overdoses and limit the spread of illnesses. Criminalizing people today who use drugs does not just fail to make people today safer and healthier, it tends to make them sicker and additional probably to overdose in the shadows.
This shift from punishment to harm reduction calls for a fundamental alter in attitudes around drug use and the nature of addiction. From criminalizing people today who sell drugs to fund their addiction, to jailing people today who relapse in the course of court-mandated therapy, the thought of drug use as a moral failing is deeply embedded in as well numerous of our justice method policies. Correct alter will call for us to finish our counterproductive use of criminal penalties for people today who use drugs, cease demonizing them, and alternatively treat them as folks deserving of compassion and care.
Worldwide leaders, researchers and well being care providers have currently accomplished the vital perform of displaying that harm reduction combined with the decriminalization of drug use and possession performs in communities about the planet. If the U.S. seeks to joins other nations that have effectively implemented harm reduction techniques, its justice method ought to do its component to catch up and cease inflicting additional harms. It is time for leaders at all levels of government to affirm – through each words and action – that people today who use drugs deserve dignity and respect, not isolation, jailing and death.